Social workers have a great role to play in making CSR the footprint of an organization so that it enhances its value and impacts the community at a far-reaching level
Today’s social structure is incredibly complex, and our societies are left with many more challenges: judicial, socio-economic, religious and psychological to mention a few. The most important workforces in helping us address these challenges are social workers. They have committed themselves to bringing a positive change in people who face various challenges in their social, economic and psychological spheres of life. The aim is to help people address their challenges and restore them in society. Some of the conventional professional scopes of social workers include health care, education and nonprofits. However, they have skills and potentials to work beyond these scopes. One such significant sector is the corporate world.
Working in the corporate sector, rather than non-profits, has been a non-traditional career path for many social workers. Many perceive that they should work for people with scanty resources rather than for companies with copious resources. For example, in Nepal, graduates are incognizant of the social work career options they can opt for apart from non-profits. Graduates and professionals often associate the term “social work” to harmful stereotype evincing their lack of understanding of social work obligations. People only understand social work as a micro-level engagement like counseling. Social work means much more.
Corporate sectors have become extremely powerful in terms of financial resources and now have undue influence over public policy. An example of a massive financial empire of big companies is the currently combined worth of more than three trillion dollars of just four technological giants: Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. Today, corporates are expected to be socially responsible. They often face criticisms for being disconnected from the society where they operate. Social workers could bridge this gap through their caliber in dealing with human relationships and in fostering human development.
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has recently gained mainstream in developing countries. CSR is a business model that helps companies be socially accountable and helps them positively impact the social system they operate in. In India, Maruti Suzuki has clearly defined community work programs, which include improving availability of clean drinking water, upgrading the infrastructure of government schools, and offering scholarships to needy students. Implementing such a business model requires workforces with skills on collaboration, community organization and facilitation, active communication and conflict resolution. Corporates have realized that social workers can bring these transferable skills and can provide insights necessary to make decisions that support a healthy and socially responsible workplace. Social workers have a great role to play in making CSR the footprint of an organization so that it enhances its value and impacts the community at a far-reaching level.
The role of social workers in corporate sectors is not just limited to CSR. Corporate sectors face perpetual challenges such as pay equity for employees, safety and security, development of human relationships and policy analysis. Social work as a discipline can help address those challenges by bringing the humanitarian approach and social values to the workplace which leads to long term growth and success of the organization. Social workers understand that the system in which the people are operating and thus can play a vital role in establishment of the structure which are bounded by human values and morals. With a great deal of understanding of human behavior and relationships, motivation, attitude, personality, and workforce challenges corporate sectors have begun to recognize various social work positions in their organizations. For instance, Google hires social workers to review security, privacy, and policies and determine methods to identify and address child pornography in Google searches.
In Nepal, the concept of social workers in corporate sectors is relatively nascent. Our society has a very rigid division of careers based on what students choose to study in college. Unlike in Western countries, we rarely see a physicist working in software engineering or a humanities student working in finance. Although the companies like Nepal Telecom, commercial banks, Surya Nepal, Panchakanya Group and many others are running CSR projects in various fields, the involvement of social workers on these projects is not satisfactory. This has derailed their community impacts. More enthusiastic social workers’ involvement in these organizations could help foster organizational growth and program development and could influence their business work with customers and communities. Companies need to understand the interdisciplinary value social workers bring to the workplace.
The writer is a Master of Social Work student at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi